Let’s Abandon the Headnote Hate. Here’s How To Write Recipe Headnotes That Inspire and Excite!
How do headnotes encourage people to read your recipe? It’s the first thing people see next to the title, so keep reading for how you can optimize it!
Headnotes, alongside titles, are the first thing someone will see when searching for a new recipe to try out. People often have a love-hate relationship with headnotes (let’s not forget the Twitter scandal in early 2021 over an app that would remove them for you), but we’re here to set the record straight for why you should use them!
WHAT IS A HEADNOTE?
A headnote is usually the first few sentences below the title of your recipe. It gives an introduction to your recipe, provides a sense of what the dish is, who it is made for, and why the author loves it and wants to share it. Contextually, they might mention how and when to make the dish, too, like on a certain holiday or with certain tools. Essentially, it’s your opportunity as the author to provide all the small tips and info on how you make it!
E.g., Chef Gabi Odebode shares her recipe for a Nigerian egusi soup, a dish she learned from her mother-in-law. Egusi soup is commonly prepared with a combination of meat and leafy greens thickened with dried and ground melon seeds egusi.
HOW LONG ARE THEY?
For search purposes, always put the keywords of your recipe into the first 150 characters, as these will show up under the title of your recipe on search engines. The full headnote can be anywhere from a few lines to 500 words long. Headnotes put the dish into its context, and help the reader understand why specific cooking methods or ingredients might be used, so don’t be shy to write as much as you need to!
E.g., A creamy and cozy stew with seared chicken and spinach simmered in a peanut butter-laced sauce, this Sierra Leonean groundnut stew comes with the perfect spicy kick for colder days.
WHO IS IT FOR?
How many people your recipe could reach if posted online is something often overlooked, and in particular, where these people might live in the world. Inclusivity is key when writing a recipe headnote as you speak to a global audience, so you don’t want to deter anyone from trying out your delicious dish. This might mean including substitutes for regionally specific ingredients you use or alternative cooking utensils if you have a niche kitchen tool.
E.g., Njama Njama is a vegetable dish from Cameroon and is traditionally made from huckleberry. In this recipe, we substitute it with seasonal turnip greens, and it’s perfect with fufu or khati khati!
WHAT SHOULD I WRITE?
Food is memory’s best friend, so always let your recipe reader know why you love this meal! Imagine you are inviting them into your kitchen; what would you tell them about the meal if you cooked it for them in person? Doing this can build trust with the reader, so they believe they will have a delicious dish at the end of the recipe and rely on your knowledge because you have shown them you are passionate about what you cook.
E.g., Green pepper sauce is one of the fiery accouterments you’ll find on a Ghanaian plate next to meko (fresh tomato chili sauce) and shito (smokey chili paste). This recipe is giving “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen” vibes and we’re here for it.
Do you have any other tips for how to write a recipe? Share them with us on our socials, and tag us with #MyJikoni to join our growing community of recipe creators!